Bridging the Communications Gap: How to Achieve Optimum Performance—And Profit—When Outsourcing

When precision parts are manufactured in-house, it’s possible, even routine, for design engineers to communicate and consult freely with their colleagues responsible for manufacturing the parts. They have an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the various processes, and can inform the manufacturing technicians about the part’s functional requirements and priorities. What ensues is a collaborative effort to “optimize” both the part’s design and its manufacturing process.

But when the manufacturing of parts is outsourced, that critically important channel of communication is often broken. That creates challenges because many of today’s design engineers lack in-depth, hands-on experience with the manufacturing process. Accordingly, they don’t know how to best design and specify parts that will perform at the highest level and at the lowest total cost.

Conversely, many shops don’t possess the engineering acumen needed to truly understand a part’s functional design intent. What’s more, some shops make manufacturing decisions solely with regard to their pro­ t, rather than the part’s performance.

And that’s why a parts manufacturer’s ability to go “beyond the blueprint” is so critical. At its essence, a blueprint is an imperfect attempt to communicate a functional design intent. Its goal is to enable parts to be produced efficiently and function properly. When part manufacturers go “beyond the blueprint,” they make a commitment to:

Understand from an engineering perspective the part’s design intent and functional priorities and use this information in planning the optimal way to produce the part
Meet all blueprint speci­ cations, while ensuring that both the blueprint and manufacturing process maximize the part’s functional performance and value
Challenge design features that add cost unnecessarily

But exactly how does cost come into play in this context, especially considering that some purchasing departments focus solely on unit price and total spend, rather than on total cost and its impact on overall profitability? Some parts are absolutely critical to the performance of the end product, and the better they perform, the better the end product performs. These parts can’t be made “too good.” As a manufacturer of precision parts for more than 60 years, I know for a fact that in certain situations it is well worth a small increase in price for a significant improvement in part performance and reduction in total cost.

Sometimes it’s not about delivering the lowest price, but the greatest value. It’s a factor all design engineers must consider when selecting a precision parts supplier. That and choosing a supplier who believes that a collaborative effort will deliver the optimum part and process, which will yield the highest value, and that has the resources and track record to do it successfully.

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